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Pasta Fra Diavolo (variation)

Pasta Fra Diavolo is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes...probably because I love any type of pasta with tomato and seafood. The name, fra diavolo, translates from Italian as "brother devil." There are numerous theories on it's origin, but the two most common are that it was named after an Italian monk who "went astray" (a life of crime or found sleeping with a prostitute, depending on the story). Two ingredients that are essential for this dish, and which set it apart just slightly from other seafood/tomato/pasta dishes are wine and hot peppers. The wine, some say, is in the dish to represent the downfall of the monk in question, and the pepper, of course, is said to be there to represent the devil. While many believe this to be Italian by origin, others claim that it was invented in New York City. To learn more about that debate you can read an archived New York Times article by clicking here. Classic recipes for Fra Diavolo usually use either shrimp or lobster; I used tilapia (because that's what I had in my freezer). If you want a recipe for shrimp fra diavolo click here.

Anyhow, here is how I made mine:

Dice the fish along with onions, peppers; mince a couple cloves garlic. Heat a pan with virgin olive oil, then saute the onions and peppers. Just when they begin to brown, add the fish, garlic, and a good pinch of crushed hot peppers (a couple anchovies would be good at this point, but I didn't have any at the time). Cook the fish until it too begins to brown, taking care not to burn the garlic or break the fish into small pieces.

Add a little white wine and enough tomato sauce as you like. Believe-it-or-not, I still had a small pint of sauce in the freezer I made from tomatoes I grew last summer. To read that post, and see how I made the sauce, click here.

Simmer the sauce for 5 or 10 minutes, then toss it with a pasta of your choice. My favorite shaped pasta is penne rigate, or literally, ribbed pen; the ribs tend to hold the sauce better than smooth pasta. And my favorite brand pasta is Barilla, but more specifically their Barilla Plus line of pasta. These pastas (or more grammatically correct, I believe, pasti) are loaded with all kinds of good and healthy ingredients. To read an article about them click here.

Whether the lore about this dish is fact or fiction makes no difference to me, because what does matter in anything I cook is taste...and this is a truly delicious yet simple dish.


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